Well, your objections have been duly noted and summarily overruled. Sarah:
Yes, sir! Sebastian:
How come when you say "yes, sir" it kinda sounds like "fuck you"? Sarah:
This language trope is most common to family fare: A character's spoken line contains no profanity whatsoever, but the tone and phrasing used by the actor is so obvious that the audience will hear the intended profanity just the same.
This trope does not include made-up swear words
or Last-Second Word Swap
. The line is spoken with perfectly mundane words and the actor's inflection, tone and facial expression is what conveys the more intense and profane parenthetical. Super-trope to Witch with a Capital B
. Often shows up in Bowdlerized
or TV-dubbed versions of movies. It also occurs a lot
in the political arena.
Compare Stealth Insult
, Precision F-Strike
. Not to be confused with Narrative Profanity Filter
, where a character really does swear—it just doesn't appear directly in the text.
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- One issue of Marvel Universe Secret Wars II has Phoenix (the Rachel Summers variety) express sympathy for The Beyonder's hurt feelings, while her face makes it clear she'd kill him if she could. (By the way, the reason his feelings got hurt was that she wouldn't let him manipulate her into destroying the universe.)
- In the Grand Finale issue of Superior Spider-Man, all it takes is one quip for the Green Goblin to realize he's not dealing with the so called "Superior" one whom the Goblin had been taunting and playing with, but the original "Amazing" one, who always beats him, and whose return he was not expecting. He says "It's you", but the inflection is way more Oh, Crap.
- Search the Web for the phrase "made it sound like a curse." It seems to be endemic in Fan Fic.
- In 300, Leonidas tells the traitor Ephialtes "May you live forever". Truth in Television, as according to the Greek historian Herodotus, Leonidas had said something very similar, and it was considered a grave insult in Spartan culture, who venerated death in battle.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, we get this exchange. Han's reply is basically a shout.
Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss? Princess Leia:
I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee. Han Solo:
I can arrange that. You could use a good "kiss"
- In the 2009 Star Trek film, Spock puts a certain amount of inflection and vitriol into the respectful Vulcan salutation, "Live Long And Prosper", so that it sounds like a Precision F-Strike.
- In the first Sister Act movie, Sister Mary Clarence says "Bless you" in a way that makes it clear the word she would use, if she wasn't in a nun habit and surrounded by nuns, begins with an F.
- Perversion For Profit has the man character say "Come join the fun!" in a way that makes one think he really said "Darn, I just stepped in a huge pile of dog-poo."
- In an inversion of the Western Animation example below, in X-Men: The Last Stand, a captured Mystique attacks her interrogator, pins him to the wall and growls out "homo sapien" like it's something disgusting.
- The Bridge on the River Kwai manages to do this with the word "you" spoken by itself as a complete sentence.
- Early in Return to Oz the shrink utters an "Oh, dear," with a particular tone.
- In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, Lobsang tries to save his master rather than stop the obliteration of time, leading Susan to say "you hero!" to him in the same tones someone would say "you idiot!"
- Additionally, in Interesting Times, one of the Silver Horde is the subject of Saveloy's attempts to make him stop swearing every single sentence. He manages to make him use Unusual Euphemisms instead, but then it is observed that he could turn the air blue just by saying "socks" (which becomes Hilarious in Hindsight once you read Monstrous Regiment).
- Especially funny because Saveloy, who's the one who put together the swearword conversion chart, is the only one who knows what he's TRYING to say when he uses an Unusual Euphemism. We don't get a translation, but the thing that he translated to "misbegotten wretch" was apparently pretty shocking.
- In Wyrd Sisters, Duke Felmet is described as the sort of person who gets more polite and restrained the angrier he gets, to the point where he can give the cutting edge of a severe dressing-down to the phrase "Thank you very much."
- Sergeant Dai Dickens in Night Watch doesn't swear for religious reasons, and uses this trope instead. "Come on, you sons of mothers!"
- In The Truth, Sacharissa can say "you utterly ungrateful person" like it's a curse.
- The character of Tzetzas in David Drake and SM Stirling's The General series is usually pronounced as if it were a curse.
- "He gives graft a bad name."
- There's a Running Gag that whenever his name is brought up in conversation, Suzette tells the person/people saying it to stop swearing.
- In And Another Thing, someone is said to say the name "Zaphod" "as if it were a curse". Justified, perhaps, because it goes on to say that in many languages, it now is.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, McGonagall refers to Umbridge as "headmistress", and the author notes that she "pronounced the word with the same look on her face that Aunt Petunia had whenever she was contemplating a particularly stubborn bit of dirt".
- Carries over into the movie adaptation, in which she and Umbridge are seen "politely" sniping at each other several times.
Umbridge: Something you would like to say, Minerva?
McGonagall: Oh, there are several things I would like to say!
- One scene in Great Expectations has Pip's sister say "Lord bless the boy!" in a way that makes it sound quite the opposite.
- The following line in A Song of Ice and Fire, regarding Jon's unpopular and much-derided decision to employ a former rent boy as his personal manservant;
Ser Malegorn stepped forward. “I will escort Her Grace to the feast. We shall not require your... steward.” The way the man drew out the last word told Jon that he had been considering saying something else. Boy? Pet? Whore?
- In the novelisation of Scarface (1983), Tony Montana is passing through Miami airport when a customs officer asks him (as the only Cuban-American male) to stand aside for a search for drugs. The 'sir' was framed in quotes. Turns out Montana is a distraction for the actual drug mules, like the nun and the nice all-American family.
- In Wuthering Heights;
"Thrushcross Grange is my own, sir," he interrupted wincing, "I should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it—walk in!"
The "walk in" was uttered with closed teeth, and expressed the sentiment "Go to the Deuce!"
- In the novel The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer the word "booboo" is frequently used very similarly to the word "shit", as in "Don't be such a booboo-head."
- "Firestarter" by The Prodigy: "I'm the troublestarter, the punking instigator."
Mythology and Religion
- In some translations of The Bible, in the book of Job, Satan dares God to strike Job to take away all that he has and see if he won't "bless" God for it, in which the intended meaning (as pointed out in most other translations) is to "curse" God.
- In other places, people take the self-malefactory oath, "May God do thus and so to me (and more besides!) if...", with the words "thus and so" standing in for the actual curse.
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Abu Dhabi", Martin self-importantly demands that Douglas call him "sir". Douglas manages to pronounce "Yes, sir" like a particularly vile epithet. He then proceeds to refer to Martin exclusively as "sir" in derisive tones until Martin begs him to stop.
- At one point in Hair, a character says "Thank you, Sandy"; the stage directions call for it to be intoned as "Fuck you, Sandy."
- One Touch of Venus has this at the end of the title song:
Mix a little bit of goddess,
A little bit of damsel,
And life is just one goddess damsel cinch.
- West Side Story has a group of 1950's young men dancing down the street singing how they're gonna beat
Ev'ry last buggin' gang
On the whole buggin' street!
On the whole ever mother lovin' street!
- Mass Effect 1 gives us a particularly wonderful line on the subject:
"Why is it that whenever someone says 'with all due respect
' they really mean 'kiss my ass'?"
- "The gnome was muttering to himself, too, in a low, unpleasant manner. He didn't so much curse as deliver each word as if he were cursing, so that 'Butter and bedknobs!' came out sounding like something you'd use to send a demon back to the abyss." - Little Creature and the Redcap by Ursula Vernon.
- Atop the Fourth Wall—"Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!" (being said, of course, in as sarcastic a tone as possible and with an expression of obvious disdain)
- In the Homestar Runner cartoon "Donut Unto Others", Homestar opens a donut stand near Bubs' Concession Stand. Bubs comes up to Homestar and makes small talk... at the top of his lungs, in a threatening tone, and with his face solid red. Homestar, ever-oblivious, takes a few minutes to realize "Are we in a fight?"
- In one episode of X-Men, Wolverine infiltrates an anti-mutant hate group, the Friends of Humanity, by posing as a trashy, mutant-hating bigot. He plays the role to the letter, down to growling "mutant" like a swear word (or, more realistically, a racial/ethnic slur).
- In Gargoyles, just about any time Goliath says "Xanatos."
- Despite its very family friendly tone, A Charlie Brown Christmas has one.
Charlie Brown: Man's best friend...
- In the pilot movie/first two episodes of Young Justice, Kid Flash takes issue with Robin's disappearing act antics and calls him on it: "Way to be a team player, Rob." He comes down hard on the nickname, and it's clear to the viewer that it's a placeholder for Robin's real first name, which Kid Flash knows, and happens to be Richard, also known as Dick.
- Adventure Time is full of this, such as Lumpy Space Princess's use of "What the lump?"
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- At one point in "Putting Your Hoof Down", New!Fluttershy says that nopony gives a "flying feather" about Pinkie and Rarity's jobs.
- There's also Rarity's hysterical "Congratu-pony-lations, fillies!" in "Rarity Takes Manehattan".
- Not to mention multiple instances of "Aw, ponyfeathers!" and variations thereof.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball, there was this exchange:
Gumball: Man, What a pile of beans.
Darwin: Dude, watch your language, you'll get us in trouble.
Gumball: Well I'm sorry, Darwin, but it is. It's a big, steaming, pile of beans.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: "You're too much of a pushover to do anything about it." (Also note that Toph is cracking some nuts of Aang's as she says this to him.)
- In the sequel series to this The Legend of Korra Toph once again does this when she says to Bolin's girlfriend Opal "How did you end up dating a dipstick like him?" She says it like "dipshit" instead.
- Batman: The Animated Series: In "Perchance to Dream". Bruce is prepared to jump off a tower to prove he's dreaming, but Mad Hatter asks what if he's wrong: "Then I'll see you in your nightmares!"
- In Series 3 of Thomas the Tank Engine, when Mavis gets stuck on a level crossing:
Narrator: An angry farmer was telling Mavis just what she could do with her train.
- Whenever Destro addresses his boss as "my dear Cobra Commander", substitute "bless your heart" and you'll get the intended effect.
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Party With a Pony", Marco taunts Floating Princess Pony Head with "Your mother's a horse!"
- Everyone in the South knows that "Bless your heart" isn't a blessing. More often that not, it's more likely to be Sugary Malice, "blessing" them in the context of "please protect this idiot since he's too stupid to help himself." It can also be a type of preemptive apology, using it to sweeten a not-so-nice comment ("Bless his heart, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen.")
- Similarly, 'gotta love you/him/her' means "I despise. . .", and "I'll pray for you" means "I hope you rot in hell." Also, if someone asks you to do something you don't want to do, you say, "I'll pray over/think about it," meaning "I'd rather eat ground glass."
- In his memoir, Rogue Warrior, Captain Dick Marcinko reports calling bad officers "sir" but meaning "cur."